The Spamhaus Amicus Brief

Posted by Matt Blumberg on

Matt Blumberg
By Matt Blumberg
CEO & Chairman

Over the past week, we have received questions from our clients who have heard about the Spamhaus amicus brief that we signed in the e360 case. We filed the brief after giving it serious consideration. In the end, there were three primary reasons for filing the brief:

  1. Spamhaus is vital to protecting email inboxes – for both recipients and senders. We share the frustration that good mailers feel when they end up on a blacklist and we agree that Spamhaus has work to do in the area of dispute resolution and transparency. But there is no denying the fact that they do a very good job in blocking an enormous amount of egregious spam for many large ISPs. We sincerely believe that the email ecosystem would be much worse if they were not around. Without these very dedicated volunteer spam fighters, there would be a far greater volume of spam in the inbox, which makes it hard for legitimate emailers like our clients to get their mail through the clutter.
  2. We think Spamhaus deserves their day in court. To date, this case has been decided on procedural issues. The case should be weighed on the merits of each side’s arguments.
  3. Return Path believes that ISPs have the right to accept or reject email. Consumers have asked their Internet Service Providers to perform this function on their behalf. And we believe that, in performing that function, ISPs should be allowed to use data that is external to their system to determine what messages to accept, to throttle, or place directly in the inbox. If a mailer behaves badly, we feel that the ISP should have the right to not accept mail from that mailer based on the best available data. This outcome of this lawsuit could limit the ability of ISPs to protect their inboxes by using third party data. We believe this would have an overall detrimental effect on email – making it more difficult to block spam, resulting in more cluttered inboxes and by raising the costs to ISPs in filtering spam.

Our actions here should not be taken to suggest that we think that Spamhaus is perfect. From our perspective, Spamhaus can be less transparent than we would like in resolving our clients’ blocking issues. We will continue to work hard to resolve issues that come up between blacklists and non-spammer publishers and marketers. However, we do not believe that ISPs should be restricted in their efforts to protect their customers’ inboxes by using the best data available to them, and that is something The Spamhaus Project provides on a daily basis.


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About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

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